This Week in History: A nonexistent day and a nonexistent word - - Columbia, South Carolina

This Week in History: A nonexistent day and a nonexistent word

The Castle Bravo atmospheric nuclear test March 1, 1954, was the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the United States. It also caused the worst radioactive contamination in U.S. history. (Source: Department of Energy/Wikipedia) The Castle Bravo atmospheric nuclear test March 1, 1954, was the largest nuclear device ever detonated by the United States. It also caused the worst radioactive contamination in U.S. history. (Source: Department of Energy/Wikipedia)

(RNN) – There is no leap day this year, but that doesn't mean Feb. 29 should be forgotten.

I had a great uncle who was born on a leap day and the only time I met him he described himself as being 70 going on 15. I don't remember exactly what numbers he used, but I remember doing the math on it afterward and it didn't work, so in the spirit of his joke that at the time I didn't understand, my math is a little fuzzy as well.

I don't know anybody who was born Feb. 29, but I did know someone born March 1 who one time tried to convince several people he was born Feb. 29. No one bought it, and as it turned out the year he was born didn't even have a leap day in it.

Pope Paul III and Ja Rule were both born on a leap day – 1468 and 1976, respectively. Pat Garrett, who killed Billy the Kid, was himself killed on leap day in 1908. James Wilson, who was Premier of Tasmania from 1869 to 1872 is the only famous or otherwise noteworthy person to be born (1812) and die (1880) on leap day.

Last year, a woman in Utah gave birth on leap day for the third consecutive time. It's only the second time that is known to have occurred.

Leap day is considered an unlucky day to get married in Greece, but elsewhere there are traditions of women proposing to men. Tradition dictates that if the man says no, he has to buy her a new dress or otherwise compensate for leaving her depressed and alone. I can't believe I'm saying this, but that sounds like a good idea for a reality show.

Here are some of the events of note that happened between Feb. 25 – March 3.

Life and Death

Jack Handey (believe it or not, and I didn't) is a real person – and that's his real name. He was born Feb. 25, 1949. He's known for his "Deep Thoughts," which are always thoughts, but are not always deep. There's a whole website devoted to the lack of wisdom contained in them ( and what appears to be an ill-conceived Twitter feed that has only 16 posts, the most recent of which was made more than six years ago.

Handey shares a birthday with George Harrison (1943) and Carrot Top (1965), whose real name is Scott Thompson. If Carrot Top did his act under his real name, it would be insufferable, but as it is, it's only mostly insufferable.

Johnny Cash was not born named Sue, but he was born Feb. 26, 1932. Elizabeth Taylor was born the next day, and she shares a birthday with Chelsea Clinton (1980). Dr. Suess was born March 2, 1904, in a box with a fox.

In a weird every 40 years anomaly, baseball broadcaster Harry Caray (1914), actor/director Ron Howard (1954) and alleged singer Justin Bieber (1994) were all born March 1. I'm going to make a prediction that March 1, 2034, will be the birth of the Antichrist. That seems like the best way to follow the Biebs.

I Love Lucy neighbors Desi Arnaz (March 2, 1917) and William Frawley (Feb. 26, 1887) were both born this week. Frawley also died this week on March 3, 1966. Frawley was known as an excessive drinker, and it was feared he would hamper production of the show. It was never an issue, though he did miss two episodes of the series because a clause in his contract said he didn't have to work if the New York Yankees were in the World Series, and since it was the 1950s, the Yankees were always in the World Series.

Fred Rogers died Feb. 27, 2003. There was a longstanding rumor that he had been a Navy SEAL sniper and wore sweaters on his TV show because his arms were covered in tattoos. Sadly, neither rumor is true.

Overlooked Anniversaries

If you want to blame somebody for gas prices being so high, blame Oregon. Feb. 25, 1919, was the start of states imposing taxes on gasoline. Oregon was the first state, and levied a 1-cent tax on gas. Today (well, last year, but these were the most recent reliable numbers I found), Oregon charges 50 cents per gallon. It's convenient to make fun of places like Mississippi and New Jersey, but after seeing that chart you may want to move there. Alaska is by far the lowest, but it has to be just to give people a reason to stay.

Speaking of reasons to not make fun of Mississippi, Hiram Rhodes Revels was sworn in as the first African-America senator Feb. 25, 1870. Rhodes was from Mississippi. Alas, though, the opposition to Rhodes' election used an argument similar to the Obama birther controversy when they said he didn't qualify to serve because he had not been a citizen until granted that status by the 14th Amendment in 1868, and therefore didn't meet the requirement of nine years' prior citizenship.

The 22nd Amendment, which imposed a term limit on the president, was ratified Feb. 27, 1951, the Republican Party was formed Feb. 28, 1854, the Article of Confederation were adopted March 1, 1781, and the first U.S. census was authorized March 1, 1790.

It's a good week for people who like nature. Yellowstone National Park was created as the first national park in the world March 1, 1872, and it was followed by Grand Canyon National Park on Feb. 26, 1919. Ten years later, Grand Teton National Park was created.

The Hoover Dam was completed March 1, 1936. There are rumors that the concrete is still wet in parts of the structure. The Internet is a terrible place to research an answer to that question, but it was mentioned as being true on an episode of Modern Marvels on The History Channel. Personally, I'm choosing to believe the concrete has hardened because it was poured in sections and not all at once. I found that piece of info researching the rumor that dead workers are entombed in the dam, which is false.

The Senate allowed its debates to be televised Feb. 27, 1986, creating the most boring TV possible. John Wesley chartered the Methodist church Feb. 28, 1784, and immediately followed it with the first pot luck dinner (I couldn't find evidence to support this, but having been raised in the Methodist church I know from experience that it's accurate).

Ohio and Nebraska became states March 1, 1803 and 1867, respectively. Florida became a state March 3, 1845. Ohio has the Ohio State Buckeyes and their buckeye leaf stickers, which have been confused as being a marijuana leaf. I'm torn over what that should mean to its status as a state, but because presidential elections come down to what Ohio does, I'm kicking it out. I'm tired of Ohio's election dictatorship. Democracy must be restored. On that note, Florida can be kicked out, too, because it is an election nightmare and hijacks the whole process with its tomfoolery. Nebraska is the only state that has a unicameral legislature. That sounds too easy to rig, so I'm kicking it out as well.

In my ongoing effort to expose our democracy for the fraud we all know it to be, Rutherford B. Hayes was announced as the winner of the election of 1876 on March 2, 1877, just days before he was to be inaugurated.

In the election, Hayes carried 20 states – two more than Samuel Tilden – but only had one more electoral vote. Tilden owned the popular vote by 250,000 votes. Voting returns in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida (ALWAYS FLORIDA!!) were marred by fraud. Threats of violence were made against people voting, there was controversy over the design of the ballot and Reconstruction governments in the South may or may not have decided to call their state for Hayes regardless of voting tallies.

I read more about this than I care to admit, and came away unconvinced either way as to who won. As far as I'm concerned from 1877-1881, we didn't have a president.

The Star-Spangled Banner was adopted as the national anthem March 3, 1931, because it talks about war and we like that. It's notoriously hard to sing, but sounds incredible when played on an electric baseball bat.

The erroneous word "dord" was discovered in Webster's dictionary Feb. 28, 1939. Dord was defined as meaning density, but it was intended to be entered as "D or d" as a way to abbreviate density, but someone confused it as one word.

I am adding "dord" to my personal vocabulary to mean "a stupid person." As in, "dord" isn't a word, you dord.

Something About Sports

Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA scoring record with 100 points in a game March 2, 1962. This is a dubious record, in my opinion. Chamberlain was a great player, but scoring 100 points in a game is achieved only by everyone else letting you get it. A picture of the last goal shows him standing under the basket uncontested. The guy had 98 points, and he's not even being defended? That's shady. That it was an even 100 is shady, too. His team won by 22, and his final basket came with 46 seconds left in the game.

The first Pan American Games were held Feb. 25, 1951. It's basically a Western Hemisphere Olympics, and should probably get more attention than it usually does. They've been held in the U.S. twice – Chicago in 1959 and Indianapolis is 1987.

Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston to claim the world heavyweight championship Feb. 25, 1964, famously screaming "I'm the greatest. I shook up the world." Ali was known as Cassius Clay at the time, but revealed his association with the Nation of Islam and changed his name shortly after the fight.

I've always wished I were alive when boxing and horse racing were a bigger deal than they are now. The personality and antics of Muhammad Ali make me wish I could have seen him fight, but I also think that had I been alive then, those same antics would have caused me to hate him.

Liston famously lost the fight by refusing to answer the bell after the sixth round. In a bit of irony, it was Clay who had first considered withdrawing after suffering a painful burning in his eyes. His trainer wouldn't let him quit, and after another round the burning subsided. It is thought that a substance used to close a cut on Liston's face got on his gloves and then into Ali's eyes. There is speculation, but no evidence, that it was done on purpose.

The Week in Warfare

The old axiom that God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal was first put into motion Feb. 25, 1836, when Colt was granted a patent for the revolver. Colt initially produced the Paterson, which only held five bullets and wasn't reliable. The design was improved on with the Walker Colt and later the Colt Single Action Army, a .45-caliber revolver known as the Peacemaker. Colt later created the M1911, a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, for the U.S. military and more than 100 years later, the gun is still in service. (If you're a conspiracy theorist, you probably think it's going to be taken away from you in the near future, but so far that has not been proposed.)

The USS Ranger, the first purpose-built aircraft carrier was launched Feb. 25, 1933, and the USS Indiana, the first battleship comparable to those of other countries was launched Feb. 28, 1893.

Adolf Hitler re-formed the Luftwaffe on Feb. 26, 1935, violating the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. Luftwaffe is a cool name. Pretty much anything said in German sounds cool. German is a consonant heavy language, and I like that. It sounds evil and menacing, and is a great way to clear your throat.

I've given several examples so far detailing our inability to control our nuclear weapons (here and here), and here's another. The Castle Bravo test March 1, 1954, caused the worst radioactive contamination in U.S. history. It happened at Bikini Atoll, but even though Kate Upton wasn't there, the damage was catastrophic.

All inappropriate joking aside, the yield from the bomb was far above what was expected, and was the most powerful nuclear bomb the U.S. has ever detonated, and caused much discussion over the safety of atmospheric nuclear testing. Fallout from the bomb poisoned some people who lived on the island and the crew of a Japanese fishing boat.

Holiday You Should Celebrate

Beer Day is March 1. This is not to be confused with International Beer Day, which is Aug. 5, or the day on a Navy ship when the sailors are allowed to drink. March 1, 1989, marked the end of Prohibition in Iceland. Americans have a longstanding tradition of celebrating beer-drinking holidays from other countries – St. Patrick's Day and Cinco de Mayo – and since it's a Friday this year, a lot of people were going to be "celebrating" anyway. So, knock yourself out, but don't drive yourself home.

Preview of next week

The birth of good and evil.

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